New visa regime to promote fairness … northern hospitality achieves highest occupancy

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New visa regime to promote fairness … northern hospitality achieves highest occupancy
New visa regime to promote fairness … northern hospitality achieves highest occupancy

Africa-Press – Namibia. The success of government’s decision to implement visa requirements for those countries that require visas from Namibians will largely depend on the industry’s ability to mitigate the impact and negotiate agreements to sustain domestic tourist inflows.

This is according to stock brokerage Simonis Storm (SS), who last week stated the new visa regime aims to promote fairness from other countries.

“This policy has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, it encourages reciprocity in international relations, prompting other nations to consider visa-free access for Namibian citizens. Additionally, it enhances border monitoring and security measures within Namibia,” reads an SS hospitality report. The SS report was released as economic and geopolitical challenges continue to hinder international tourism’s full recovery and overall confidence levels.SS pointed out that on the downside, the new visa policy might lead to a decline in international tourist arrivals, particularly from countries now subjected to visa requirements.“This is concerning, as tourism is a vital sector of Namibia’s economy. For instance, tourists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland constitute a significant portion of our tourism market, accounting for an average of 38.2% of those occupying hospitality establishments year-to-date,” SS stated.

Meanwhile, the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) has highlighted several concerns regarding the new visa reciprocity policy. These include uncertainties surrounding current travel and meeting restrictions, potential for low attendance and event cancellations due to legislative changes, a shortage of professional meeting staff due to redundancies, and inflation driving up overall event production costs.

HAN is adamant these factors could adversely impact the appeal of Namibia as an attractive tourism destination.

Meanwhile, international arrivals during the first quarter of 2024 approached 2019’s pre-pandemic levels, reaching 97%, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). This is as some 285 million tourists travelled internationally during Q1 2024, representing a 20% year-on-year (y/y) increase, compared to the same time in 2023. SS noted this growth was driven by high demand, the reopening of Asian markets, better air connectivity and easier visa processes. Moreover, the Middle East experienced the most significant tourism growth, with arrivals surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 36%.

Europe also showed progress, recording a 2% increase over 2019 figures for the first time in any quarter, while Africa experienced a 5% increase in arrivals, compared to the first quarter of 2019. In addition, the UN Tourism Confidence Index expects a positive outlook for May to August 2024.

Meanwhile, the SS report noted that tourism inflows continue their positive trajectory, with the national occupancy rate surpassing 60% in May 2024.

“This is the highest rate observed this year, and the highest since October 2019 when the occupancy rate was 69.9%. This milestone for the tourism industry surpasses the occupancy rates of 55.8% recorded in May 2019, and 50.8% recorded in May 2023,” SS stated.

During the first quarter of 2024, northern establishments achieved the highest occupancy rate at 63%, also having the highest number of participants in the HAN survey.

Coastal areas followed closely with a 62.3% occupancy rate – and southern areas recorded 61.8%.

SS noted that central areas of Namibia had the lowest occupancy rate at 42.3% in May 2024, which is a decline of 66.7% reported last month, 54.9% in May 2023 and 53.9% in May 2019.

Only eight hospitality establishments in the central areas participated in the HAN survey.

“Leisure tourism remains the primary driver of tourist inflows, accounting for 94.8% of arrivals in May 2024. The northern areas were the most preferred destination, while coastal areas were the least favoured. However, coastal areas emerged as the top choice for business travellers, with 29.9% of hospitality establishments occupied in May 2024, a significant increase from 9% in April 2024. Despite this, the number of travellers occupying establishments for conference purposes remains below pre- pandemic levels, with only southern area establishments being utilised in May 2024,” SS stated.

Europeans continue to make up the largest portion of visitors in domestic hospitality establishments, making up 66% in May 2024.

“Tourists from Austria, Germany and Switzerland were the most prominent, followed by visitors from France and Benelux. Other regions contributed smaller shares: North America (4.9%), Asia (2.0%), South America (0.3%), the Middle East (0.14%) and the rest of the world (1.8%),” SS stated.

In a bid to boost the local tourism industry, the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) is scheduled to take place in Windhoek from 25 to 27 June 2024. The forum is expected to attract prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies and their advisers.

“We are looking forward to hosting a world-class event that will help us to promote and showcase Namibia’s potential and value proposition as an investment destination, while at the same time serving as a nexus where investors, industry leaders and governments connect, network and forge mutually-beneficial partnerships to unlock tangible opportunities that will catalyse further growth and development in our tourism industry,” stated CEO of the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board, Nangula Uaandja.

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